As I walked into my local Fleet Feet something new and strange caught my attention. It looked like GU but bigger. As I picked it up, I could tell right away that this was something a little bit different. I could sense the sloshing and movement of the liquid within the packet (very much unlike the original GU). Indeed as the name suggests this was GU’s new Liquid Energy product and I had to give it a try. I picked up three different flavors and asked the fella at the counter if this was GU’s attempt at isotonic gel. I’m not sure if he heard of SIS isotonic gels before, but he responded – Nah, it’s just GU with water.
In this review, I share my experience of trying GU Liquid Energy during a 15 mile training trail run. I tried the GU Liquid Energy Strawberry Banana, as well as the Orange and the Coffee flavors, these last two come with 20 and 40 mg of caffeine respectively.
Marketing Claim – GU gel in a refreshingly light and smooth liquid form
The good people at GU make a pretty straightforward pitch that their liquid energy products deliver the same portable and fast-absorbing energy as the original gels but in a different form factor – liquid. The reason for the new type of gel, according the product overview page, is that having a variety of form factors makes it easier to ensure you keep fueling up during endurance sessions. I did not see any claims from GU about not needing to drink water alongside the liquid gels, on the contrary it states right on the packet “every 45 mins & hydrate along the way”.
GU Original vs GU Liquid Energy – Nutrition and Size Comparison
The difference in size of the liquid energy from the original GU is obvious. It is almost twice the weight at 60 grams vs 32 grams for original variants, but just a little big taller (seen with tip already ripped off in image below), and maybe 1.5 times wider. The package is still very reasonable to carry in your running shorts or belt. I was able to carry three of them without a problem in my shorts back pocket.
As far as nutrition comparison, they are very similar to the original GU gels.
- Calories: the strawberry banana flavor of Liquid Energy had 95 kcal while the original GU of the same flavor has 100 kcal.
- Carbohydrates: 23 grams for both types of form factors
- Salt/Sodium: The liquid energy variant lists .19 g of salt – which equates to just over 70mg of sodium, while the original lists 55mg of sodium.
- Both products also contain amino acids such as L-leucine, L-Valine, and L-Isoleucine.
Here’s the back label of two of the flavors I tried, the coffee and the strawberry banana:
Taste and consistency
Unlike Runivore Will (the other reviewer on Runivore), I don’t mind the taste of energy gels too much. They are not something I would ever eat on their own for enjoyment, but I enjoy the flavor when I’m on long runs or during a race. I’ve also used GU energy gels more than any other type of nutrition products during marathons or ultras. I like them for the variety of flavors.
From the very first gulp, or rather sip, of GU Liquid Energy, I felt like I was consuming something very familiar. In other words, the flavors that I tried all were very similar to the original GU gel flavors. I think there is also something unique to GU gels in general and this uniqueness remained in the Liquid Energy products as well.
As far as consistency, GU liquid energy went down smoothly and I didn’t feel like I needed water as a chaser. It seemed like a slightly thick juice or overly concentrated gatorade.
Packaging – the hole could be slightly bigger
I did see in the GU reviews that some people complained about the opening not being big enough and some people had trouble getting the gel out easily. I didn’t really notice this to be a serious problem and it is probably a built-in spill deterrent as the gel is liquid. I remember having to suck a little bit for the coffee flavor – but perhaps I didn’t execute the rip as efficiently as with the other flavors.
Here’s the trio of gels I tried:
Performance – 25 km with marathon pace section
I usually don’t take energy gels until about 40 minutes into my training session or race, but on this particular day I had skipped breakfast so I actually followed the directions right on the opening tab which stated: 5 min before, every 45 mins. I took the Strawberry Banana flavor about 5 minutes before the workout session. It tasted pretty good and although I didn’t need water in terms of getting the GU cleared out, I did have a few sips just as a pallet cleanser. I took the Coffee and the Orange flavor with me onto the trails.
I ran 5 km (about 3 miles) at an easy pace, then 15 km at my marathon pace, and finished it off with a 5 km easy pace. I took the coffee flavor at the 45 minute mark into the training. It tasted really nice and went down smoothly, I didn’t follow it up with water as my makeshift water station was about a mile after I took the gel. It didn’t bother me not to have any water with it. I definitely recommend it if you’re running a marathon and want to take in energy gels according to a time schedule and not depend on being close to a water station.
I took the final gel at the 1.5 hour mark and continued for just over 30 minutes to finish my workout.
- From start to finish I never felt for lack of energy even while skipping breakfast and starting the run quite late ~ 11AM.
- I enjoyed the taste, and the watery texture was a nice break from the thick GU I’m used to.
- As far as performance, it did the job, although I was hoping for a bit more of a caffeine kick from the Coffee flavor. I’m a high caffeine intake runner so I guess the 40 mg in the coffee flavor and the 20 mg in the orange flavor were just too little to make an impact.
- The packaging opening could be just a tad bit wider, otherwise you have to just suck a little to get the energy out completely. This was not a game breaker for me.
- Prices at the retail store were reasonable at just over $2 per GU liquid energy and sell for about $2 on the GU website.
I will definitely give these gels a try again, especially if I make the mistake of signing up for another 100 k or if I get some other silly idea. The thought of mixing up traditional gels and the liquid energy seems like a good idea to me.
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